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3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Use Dish Soap in Your Washing Machine – Consumer Reports

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Our laundry expert has concerns about the viral Dawn dishwashing liquid laundry hack
In the age of TikTok cleaning hacks, we’ve become accustomed to seeing some pretty unique tips on the internet. Some work great, but others, not so much. We recently came across a laundry hack using dish soap. You’re supposed to squeeze Dawn directly into your washing machine or apply it to a clean, dry rag that you then toss in with your load of laundry. And voila! Whiter, brighter, cleaner laundry at the end of a regular wash cycle. But is it a good hack? Spoiler alert: No, it’s not. 
I asked CR’s laundry expert, Rich Handel, what he thought of the trend, and he had some concerns. 
“I would be concerned about the dish soap causing a lot of suds,” Handel says. He has good reason to be. Unlike dish soap, which is usually formulated to create lots of suds, most laundry detergents are formulated to be low-sudsing.
And in my professional experience testing laundry detergents, washing machines are made to handle these low-sudsing formulas, so high-sudsing soaps and detergents—or simply using too much laundry detergent—can build up inside of the drum and make the washer smelly and leave clothes feeling soapy.
To compensate for the extra suds in a laundry load, I’ve seen washers add extra water and time to a cycle. But when there are too many suds, they can leak out of a washing machine during a cycle. Not a mess I want to deal with. A few drops of dish soap rubbed into a stain will probably not cause these problems, but anything more than that can bring about some laundry hiccups.
Even using more than the recommended amount of laundry detergent can trigger these washing machine issues. 
We suggest starting with a shot glass amount of laundry detergent, which is 1.5 oz. or 3 tablespoons.
CR’s Laundry Expert
Laundry detergents are specifically made with the ingredients necessary to get clothes clean and protect fabrics to keep them looking their best. For example, Tide laundry detergent includes anti-redeposition agents that the company says keep the dirt removed from fabrics in the water and off other garments in a load of laundry. The optical brighteners in the company’s and other brands’ detergents help restore the coating on fibers that give them their fresh-from-the-store white or bright appearance.
Dish soaps are formulated to cut grease and other food messes from hard, resistant surfaces, not clothes. Washing clothes with dish soap can damage more delicate fabrics like silk, not necessarily because they’re too harsh but because they don’t have all of the other ingredients that protect clothes in their formula. And if you don’t rinse the soap out of fabrics well enough, it will also leave fabrics feeling stiff.
For stubborn stains that laundry detergent alone can’t get out, try a laundry stain remover. “I think dish soap could be used to treat a stain if that is all you have on hand at the time if used sparingly,” Handel says. “We tested a bunch of stain removers and also found the top-rated liquid laundry detergents to be great stain pretreaters.” If you find yourself with an oily, greasy stain and no stain remover or liquid laundry detergent to use as a pretreatment, you can dab a very small amount of dish soap on the stain before running it through a regular wash cycle, but never more than a few drops and always with laundry detergent in the washing machine, too.
If you have someone at home with sensitive skin, you know how important it is to wash laundry with a gentle, unscented detergent. Strong fragrances and harsh ingredients are big no-nos. Most dish soaps, including Dawn, have fragrance ingredients in their formula. While this may not be too irritating to wash dishes in, it can be irritating to your skin or disturb your sleep if you’re washing your sheets with dish soap. Stick with laundry detergents made for sensitive skin instead.
Jodhaira Rodriguez
Jodhaira Rodriguez is a multimedia content creator at Consumer Reports. Before joining CR, she tested and wrote about cleaning and organizing products and major appliances like washing machines and dishwashers at Good Housekeeping. In her free time, you’ll find her reading, listening to true crime podcasts, or working on her latest hobby of the month.
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